Art. Design. Crossover. These are the labels that have followed Yin Jiulong throughout his artistic career. As Chengdu’s best-known commercial graphic designer, Yin’s work has undoubtedly been widely celebrated. After his success in pioneering crossovers between design and art, Yin dropped another bombshell in spring 2016 with his 1/1000 series of porcelain objects. Not only did the series bring to the general public a new appreciation of how art and design can cross into one another, it also brought a more intuitive understanding of Yin’s huaren (Chinese-speaking community) creative ideals.
Yin began working on the 1/1000 series with master porcelain craftsmen in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province, China in September 2012. Discussing his inspiration for the series, Yin recalls his first impression when he arrived in Jingdezhen. In his early visits, he found that this little old town–the birthplace of porcelain art in China and a town still reliant on the porcelain industry–exuded an ancient, time-worn, and traditional air, whether in terms of the overall atmosphere, the techniques of the craft, and the works produced. As Yin saw it, those overly traditional expressions of art no longer had any connection to the lives of contemporary huaren communities.
As a visual artist trained in graphic design, Yin is open about his strengths. “I’m good at connecting different visual elements,” he says. He decided to do something to bring together traditional ceramic craftsmanship and modern visual language. “I blended very streamlined modern patterns into these traditional objects, while preserving the sleek and simple lines and classic form of the meiping (plum bottle).
“I also deconstructed the traditional blue-and-white porcelain pattern using the grammar of art; not many people are doing this kind of modern, minimalistic visual re-interpretations based on the traditional qinghua (blue-and-white) pattern. I used traditional craft techniques to transform the qinghua pattern into a design for contemporary tastes, like the polka dots, stripes, lozenges, and gradients that appear in the 1/1000 series. Of course, I’m not the only artist to make use of these elements, but I still want to keep experimenting with them, bringing them all together.”
“Designers should not be all talk. They need to turn their creativity and ideas into action, to experiment and bring together the different possibilities in the classical, the traditional, and the contemporary. As a huaren designer, that is what I’m trying to do when I work to create designs that are specific to the huaren community.”
When asked whether the huaren cultural heritage helps the development of contemporary huaren design, Yin is candid in his reply. He says that huaren designers and artists are all very contemporary in the forms of expression they employ, but that their version of “contemporary” is built on the context of the language, lifestyle, and environment of huaren communities and societies. The issue of globalization and homogenization is inescapable today; our approach to living, state of society, and existing systems were all borne of learning from and imitating Western societies, a transformation that was driven by history.
Real integration, however, should be a process where everyone draws on the experiences of others. The development of ceramics in the West can be traced back to China, but that the West brought the craft to new heights and continued to push forward toward better techniques. The Western ceramics industry is now far superior to Chinese one whether in terms of the level of technology, the functionality and quality of products, the choice of materials, or the availability of machinery and equipment. Of course, it cannot be denied that the Western world also has more funding and a better overall level of technology, and this contributes to further developing the craft.
“On the one hand, people are always thinking about how to pass down and protect huaren culture and our intangible cultural heritage; on the other hand is the future of the huaren community,” notes Yin. “But what I’m focused on is the cultural growth and aesthetic judgment of contemporary huaren communities. To do this, I need to look at factors like the societal context, the advancement of our civilization, the capacity of our production, and the political and economic environment. Only be examining these objective conditions can we precisely discuss these questions: What is huaren culture? What is the huaren aesthetic? How can we better trace the outline of contemporary huaren communities in their philosophy of life, and therefore derive the design values that allow us to better serve them?” In his creative life, Yin is dedicated to thinking about the lives of huaren communities in contemporary society and creating designs based on the results of that thinking.
About Yin Jiulong
Yin Jiulong is a designer, and the Founder and Artistic Director of Artlavie. He graduated from Chengdu University and now lives and works in Chengdu, China. He has worked in design for twenty years; he started his career in 1996. In these two decades, he has participated in many art and design exhibitions and exchange events in China and abroad, and is responsible for the corporate identities of several international cultural and artistic institutions. He also participated in the design and promotion of nearly every major arts and culture event in Chengdu. In recent years, Yin has begun working in spatial and product design. In his crossover efforts, he aims to break down the boundaries between art, design, and living.